PEORIA — Gov. Bruce Rauner signed expanded historic tax credit legislation Thursday in the shadow of a historic building that could soon see $90 million of renovations.
Standing with OSF HealthCare leaders whose future headquarters — most recently called the Chase bank building — stands to benefit from the measure, the governor called it a boon for business and an opportunity for greater flexibility.
Bob Sehring, the CEO of the health system, agreed, particularly in how Senate Bill 3527 would affect Peoria.
"A vibrant Peoria is crucial to our ability to recruit top talent to this area and help us grow," he said of the intended headquarters building that would house between 700 and 800 employees.
Peoria's bipartisan delegation to the Legislature pushed the legislation across the finish line in the waning hours of the spring session.
State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, was the bill's lead House sponsor and called it "an example of something we were able to do together" that would "spur significant economic development not only in the city of Peoria but across the state of Illinois."
Sehring said the current tax credits — established earlier this decade as a pilot program applying only to Peoria, Rockford, Aurora, Elgin and East St. Louis — didn't really offer much flexibility in how they were used.
"It was fairly restrictive on how long we would have to work on this project and how long we would have to complete it," he said. "The flexibility that this offers is significant, so that increases the value of the state tax credits."
Among other things, the legislation signed Thursday expands use of the program throughout the state, with up to $15 million a year in credits. It also permits the tax credit to be carried forward for five years.
That, Rauner said, gives "the investors and the construction firms more flexibility on the timing of their projects" to have a bigger impact.
Meanwhile, OSF is still awaiting word on whether or not the property at 124 SW Adams will be included in federal designations of historic properties, which would open the door to accessing federal tax credits. That decision still could come during the summer, Sehring said.
"All the pieces leading up to that have gone very well," he said. "At this point we have no reason to believe we'll have any issues."
Exterior renovations are unlikely to begin this year — including a tear-down of the Peoria Professional Building and parking deck on the block — but work on the interior could begin, since "that's where the bulk of the work is," Sehring said.
That renovation, announced in January, is likely to employ at least 200 workers, according to material released by OSF. Gordon-Booth said the organization had committed to employment on the project "that will reflect the diversity of this community."
Chris Kaergard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard